Thursday, 1 November 2012

Up up and away!

Flying in a hot air balloon is the stuff that dreams are made of.The concept is wholly fairytale like, magical. Gliding silently through the air, high above the hustle and bustle below you, attached by basket to a giant, inflated bit of rubber has to be amazing, right!?I have always wanted to do it but somehow always felt that the occasion would never really arise, or at least, if it did, it would have to be done to mark some sort of momentous event, maybe a honeymoon style treat, organised well in advance.

Chris and I finished off our incredible year long adventure in Turkey, where we me up with our good friend Charlie for the final couple of weeks. We met in the captivating city of Istanbul and after a few days of taking in the sights there we made our way by overnight bus to Goreme. As the tourist capital of the Cappaddocia region, Goreme is famous for it's unique troglodyte landscapes guessed it...balloon rides over the regions beautiful valleys. Charlie was dead set on getting a ride and seeing as we were there and it was a 'once in a lifetime opportunity'  we figured why the hell not! We found  a cheapish deal, and booked for the next day. Safety records, pah! I laugh in the face of potential death!!

As we arrived at the launch site to be greeted by literally tens of huge balloons at varying degrees of inflation,  'sleeping giants' as Charlie described them, we started to worry about our choice. Had we gone with the best company? Why was that one bigger? Why did they have less people? Their balloons seem ready to go already, why is ours still being filled with air? Maybe we should have researched more! We nervously sipped some hot tea and nibbled on biscuits and cake while we watched them filling our enormous balloon with air. Once we were all squeezed into the basket (and I mean squeezed!) we were given a short and dubious briefing on how to adopt a landing position and then we were off.

The one thing that you are immediately struck by as you start to ascend in this giant helium balloon is how silently and gracefully it moves. It took me a few seconds to notice we were actually on our way and it was only as the crew started to shrink beneath us that I realised we were really heading up into the sky. There is no roar of engines, no g-force thrusting you back into the basket, instead you just glide smoothly up up up into the air. It feels effortless, weightless, and best of all, silent and peaceful.

I had been apprehensive about taking a flight with so many other people, and so many other balloons in the vicinity but as we drifted further up into the air and took in the scene around us I was struck by how beautiful the silhouettes of the other balloons in the sky were. Particularly against the backdrop of the rising sun. In fact I think it made the whole thing much more magical; a truly spectacular traffic jam of colourful blobs.

It turned out that our balloon driver was incredibly skilled  and managed to guide our way up and down through the valleys and away from collision with other operators. As we neared the pointy, fairytale spikes of the limestone cave formations he would let us descend, almost to the ground and take us winding through the network of caves. Then, up up up we would go again, high into the sky, to get an entirely different perspective of the network of valleys below. It was pretty exhilarating but also strangely calm and serene; floating through the air with no windows, no harnesses, nothing separating you from the ethereal like view of the land below.

Even the eventual landing was smooth as we bounced to a stop in a remote field just outside Uchisar. There, we were given our ballooning certificates and a glass of bubbly to toast our safe return to land. Fantabulous!

I heartily recommend a visit to Goreme, a stay in a cave hotel and the obligatory balloon ride. We stayed at the beautiful Vineyard Cave Hotel and ballooned with Cihangiroglu Balloons. Do it!


  1. How amazing! I wish I had been brave enough to go hot air ballooning in Egypt. I LOVE watching them at the farm, there are always loads and it does look so beautiful and silent - maybe on your next visit?! Bravo Miss Smith xxxx

    1. You should definitely do it at some is a wonderful experience. xxx